This week we caught up with Whiskeybarrel Studios developer Oliver Joyce and eGames.com publisher Aram Fuchs to talk about their upcoming remake of the web game classic, Swords and Sandals 2!
Why did eGames.com decide to buy Swords and Sandals, Aram?
Swords and Sandals was such a great franchise — Oliver clearly built a product with that right balance of silliness and competitiveness that it has created a group of lifelong fans. We call these guys Swordsmen. The Swordsmen are constantly emailing us imploring us to move the games to mobile. Oli just has such a great reputation amongst the RPG community that we knew it would work.
We are calling the new mobile franchise Swords and Sandals Redux. With the name, I wanted to communicate to the Swordsmen that we are not just reissuing the flash games in a mobile wrapper — we are restoring the franchise to its old glory.
We think fans will love Swords and Sandals Redux — it will have the same perfect blend of silly animations combined with truly athletic fighting that Oli had in the PC versions but the art has been redone for the better-than-HD screens phones have these days, the soundtrack livelier and the fighting more athletic.
Oliver was keen to do the same thing and we have worked real well together despite the fact that we are on the other side of the world with me being in New York in the US and he in Sydney, Australia.
Oli, everyone loved Swords and Sandals back in the day — but going back to old code hoping to recreate it for the mobile-first world sounds like a nightmare. Tell us how is development going? Do you have any tricks you would like to share with your fellow developers?
You know, nightmare is a very strong word and I wouldn’t quite go that far – but it’s definitely been a real mess to sift through. I’ve actually been building the Redux versions of Swords and Sandals 2 and Swords and Sandals 5 concurrently, so I’m bringing in code from a bunch of different places, some of it ten years old! I like to describing it as pouring three Lego sets on the ground, mixing them together and then trying to rebuild them without instructions.
I’d say I’m building these games in a very unorthodox manner, porting old code to a new framework, creating new code over the top of that, working on many systems over two games at once – not something I’d recommend to anyone without years of experience. I’ve built about 10 different versions and clones of ‘Swords and Sandals’ over the years so I’m in control of it, but behind the scenes it’s definitely a rollercoaster of coding!
The good news is the first redux game Swords and Sandals 2 (Emperor’s Reign) is really coming together. It remains faithful to the original game, but the strategies are deeper and the experience a lot richer. I’m excited to unleash it on the mobile world, it is definitely the game people ask me about the most.
What is the one element of Swords and Sandals that you think PC gamers loved the most and how will you port that feature to mobile?
I think far and away it was probably the unique (and often ridiculous) characters – they seemed to capture people’s imagination despite the fact they weren’t particularly sophisticated – chalk it up to my art skills or lack thereof! I’ve made sure all the animations carried across to the mobile, and I’ve even added a stack of funny new animations for the gladiators to perform. In addition, I’ve gone through and redesigned many the armour sets gladiators collect to make them a little more appropriate to the game’s setting. Less medieval knight armour, more roman gladiator gear. I think people are going to enjoy that side of it.
What is the one thing that you can do on smartphones now that you are most excited about?
The mix of power and portability! Screens have gotten so big, chips so powerful, that I can add in lots of nice effects and animations I wasn’t able to in times past. Swords and Sandals is definitely a game that plays well on mobile, it has the furious battles that the Swordsmen loved and we designed them to play in quick succession. It is an epic gladiator story, played 5 minutes at a time.
What’s next for eGames.com, Aram?
We think there are a lot of creative indie game developers like Oli, who are spending literally thousands of hours on developing games that deserve a larger audience. There are so many great games on the app stores that are hidden away because of the expense of marketing.
Meanwhile gamers can’t find any of these awesome games. How many great games have you seen rated between 4 & 5 in the app store but only have a few thousand downloads? That is frustrating for developers as well as gamers.
We think the duopoly of the App stores is weakening due to HTML 5 and various legal contests around the globe. Eventually gamers will expect to “buy once, play anywhere” and eGames.com Developers Network is positioned well to offer multi-platform distribution for developers and multi-platfor curation for gamers.
We literally have thousands of players willing to pay $15-$20 for great indie game development. We are looking for a select group of indie-game devs that want, and deserve, a fanbase as rabidly awesome as Oli’s Swordsmen.
Swords and Sandals 2 Redux is due out later this year and we will be previewing a beta of it next month, so stay tuned!